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The Glenn Miller Story - King's Theatre, Glasgow

Published by: Sean Stirling on 16th Sep 2015 | View all blogs by Sean Stirling

The Glenn Miller Story

Glenn Miller was the great American Big Band leader and arranger whose own distinctive sound provided much needed escapism during the Second World War.  The music came to a tragic end in December 1944 when Miller’s transporter plane disappeared over the English Channel following a broadcast in England for the BBC.  You may remember the 1954 movie The Glenn Miller Story starring James Stewart in the title role with June Allyson as Glenn’s wife, Helen Burger.  So moving is the final scene in that movie as June Allyson holds back the tears as she listens to the first broadcast of Miller’s band, without Miller, while the children open gifts under the Christmas tree.  It never fails to make this reviewer shed a tear or two. The Glenn Miller legacy lives on through regular tours and performances by the Glenn Miller Orchestra and in this new production from producer Bill Kenwright.

Portraying Glenn Miller is legendary song and dance man Tommy Steele, star of movies such as Finian’s Rainbow, The Happiest Millionaire and the original Arthur Kipps in Half A Sixpence.  I won’t avoid the elephant in the room here, at the age of 78 Steele is almost twice the age that the real Glenn Miller was when he disappeared.  This is the latest in the recent trend of “age blind casting”, following the announcement that Derek Jacobi (age 76) is to play Mercutio in Kenneth Branagh’s new production of Romeo And Juliet this autumn.  Mr Steele steps in and out of character to provide narration in what is a very thin and two dimensional book which glimpses over some of the key points in Miller’s life.  The whole thing feels like being with your grandfather telling you stories about the war.  It has warmth but lacks theatrical substance.  Mr Steele’s voice is a shadow of its former glory and is difficult to be heard in some of the louder numbers.  His American accent also comes and goes throughout the evening.

Playing opposite Mr Steele is the younger, Sarah Soetreat as Helen Burger.  She has a wonderful Garland-esque quality to her singing voice with a lovely warm vibrato that evokes the music of this era.  She brings as much charm as she can to the role but the flawed book denies her any sort of emotional arc.

The six members of the ensemble offer support and help to make the leading man look and sound good.  With choreography by Olivier Award winner, Bill Deamer (Top Hat) and brilliant close harmony vocal arrangements they delight in numbers such as Sing Sing Sing and Chattanooga Choo Choo.

The real star of this production, and the reason you should buy a ticket, is the sensational 16 piece orchestra , under the direction of Andrew Corcoran, who bring Glenn Miller’s gorgeous arrangements to life.  The moment the first few bars of Moonlight Serenade are heard is spine tingling and the bold brass in St Louis Blues March is nothing short of exhilarating. How wonderful it is to hear live music of this magnitude in a touring production.    

The Glenn Miller Story

Tue 15 – Sat 19 Sept

Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed, Thu & Sat mats 2.30pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) (bkg fee)



1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 2 years ago
    Thanks, Sean. A great review which tells it plainly. I still think I'd buy a ticket to hear that orchestra!
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